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We did it. We’ve managed to stand in the way of the ruling camp’s political bulldozer.

This profoundly historic election has proven that there is a permanent divide within our society, and the highest turnout rate in 30 years only confirms that people were perfectly aware of what is at stake.

The words, the deeds, the dates will be written down

By now, it must have become blatantly clear even to Andrzej Duda’s supporters that the presidential race was everything but equal. They must have noticed that the aggressive propaganda campaign unleashed to increase his re-election chances was lacking any moral restraint, and that the entire state apparatus, compromised by the ruling camp almost completely, has been activated to help the incumbent win. If they did, and voted for Duda regardless, they have consciously voted against democracy and the rule of law. But these fundamental values are not something they care much about. Instead, it seems that what they do care about is cash benefits, nationalistically and religiously charged rhetoric, and the politics of fear against the “enemies of Poland”, stirred up by the ruling camp.

On the other hand, those who supported Rafał Trzaskowski consciously voted against all this. Dirty propaganda and agitation in Duda’s favour coming from the highest political podiums and church pulpits turned out to be an effective mobilizing force during the campaign and at the polling stations. Trzaskowski’s supporters turned out to be a roadblock for the ruling camp’s anti-democratic political machine. They voted staying true to their innermost moral and political conviction that democracy and rule of law must be defended with all their might.

Now we’ll need all the strength we can muster to defend local governments, independent media and universities, a non-partisan judiciary, women’s rights, and civic and cultural organizations promoting democratic values. With all means legally available, we’ll have to oppose and resist the discrimination of minorities, the abuse of power, systemic corruption, and any attempts to supress protesters and silence critical voices.

First of all, to quote one of Czesław Miłosz’s famed poems, we must see that the words, the deeds and the dates are written down – i.e. all instances of voter disenfranchisement and fraud in counting ballots must be reported. Even if electoral protests won’t change the final outcome of the election, it remains the duty of every citizen conscious of his/her democratic rights to report all examples of malpractice and fraud. Otherwise, just like in Russia, Hungary or Turkey, next time we will put the word “election” in inverted commas.

Political awakening is gaining momentum

When I write that democratic values must be defended with “all our might”, it’s not just an empty platitude or hollow pep talk. Rather, it’s a reasonable assessment of our current situation. It’s true - we, the democrats, have the might to bring about change.

10 million people cast their vote for Rafał Trzaskowski. Despite having to fight on a profoundly unequal footing, his short, yet still energetic campaign was truly impressive. His supporters joined the fight with faith and conviction, undeterred by harassment, bullying, even physical and verbal attacks.

It is an example of a mass civic mobilization that goes far beyond mere party politics and a single presidential campaign. It is the driving force behind a new solidarity movement, even if a generational gap makes it impossible for many of the democratic voters to either know or remember the original “Solidarity” activists from 40 years ago. We can’t let this force go to waste, we need to take great care of it and work to make it stronger.

This ‘Trzaskowski’s Poland’ is much more than just a political opposition. It is a Poland of politically awakened people; of people that are free, considerate, morally strong, and respect the rule of law and institutions independent of particular party interests. It is a Poland of people who are aware that uncontested power corrupts and leads towards authoritarian rule. Finally, it is a Poland of people who, when most public institutions have been compromised and constantly fail them, can still organize and step in to keep a critical eye on the government’s doings.

The election on July 12 showed that Law and Justice has managed to divide us deeply. Even if the word is thrown around quite frequently these days, it certainly won’t be easy to act as a “community”. Half of us will have to work very hard now. But if we can take good care of our ‘household’, of our freedom, equality, our brother and sisterhood, this will be a living example of the importance and appeal of democratic values. Before it happens, however, there’re are still a few more years of persistent work before us. Trzaskowski’s campaign was a solid start. Let’s do this.

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